Wall Street down on weak auto sales, doubts over Trump agenda

Reuters | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on April 04, 2017

Wall Street closed slightly lower on Monday as March auto sales disappointed and investors questioned whether the Trump administration would deliver on its pro-business economic stimulus.

Stocks had risen to record highs on Trump's promises to cut taxes, ease regulations and spend heavily on infrastructure, and investors hoped that his policies would boost the economy.

General Motors was one of the biggest drags on the S&P 500 after automakers' sales figures for March came in below market expectations, an early signal America's long car sales boom may finally be losing steam.

“The disappointing auto sales are something people are keeping an eye on and that's meaningful news,” said Michael ORourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The major indexes pared losses. They had fallen sharply in morning trade after some US states accused President Donald Trump's administration of illegally suspending energy efficiency standards.

The challenge came barely two weeks after Republican's had to pull healthcare reform Bill due to a lack of support.

Also on Monday, Democrats amassed enough support to block a confirmation vote for Trump's Supreme Court nominee.

“If there's not one big reason (for the market decline), there's many little reasons. Right now I think it's a little reason day,” said Brad McMillan, Chief Investment Officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Mass.

While investors still hope Trump can deliver on some of his agenda, they “are getting nervous and starting to discount some of the benefits they expected to see” said McMillan.

Russia metro blast

Adding to nerves was news of a explosion in a St Petersburg train tunnel that killed ten people on Monday in what Russian authorities called a probable terrorist attack.

Trump held out the possibility on Sunday of using trade as a lever to secure China's cooperation against North Korea, in comments that appeared designed to pressure Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of their first meeting this week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 11.38 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 20,651.84, the S&P 500 lost 3.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 2,358.92 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 17.06 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 5,894.68.

Eight out of 11 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, led by the consumer discretionary index 0.5-per cent. The top three drags on that sector were auto stocks.

GM finished down 3.4 per cent while O'Reilly Automotive Inc, a car parts retailer, fell 4 per cent. Fiat Chrysler sank 4.8 per cent and Ford fell 1.7 per cent.

Two indexes that gained were telecommunications and real estate - defensive sectors whose predictable slow growth are popular in times of uncertainty.

The S&P 500 is trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, above its long-term average of 15 a few weeks before earnings seasons starts.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.32-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.56-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 80 new highs and 33 new lows.

About 6.8 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges on Monday, about matching the average for the last 20 sessions.

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Published on April 04, 2017
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